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Lahore Confidential review: Lacklustre espionage thriller hindered by short length and sub-par script

Release Date: 04 Feb 2021 / Rated: U/A / 01hr 08min

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Suyog Zore

The hurried narrative and poorly executed climax ruin what could have been an engaging thriller.

Lahore Confidential is the second film in Zee5 and writer Hussain Zaidi's espionage film franchise after London Confidential (2020).

However, the films differ greatly when it comes to the treatment of their respective subjects. London Confidential was a fast-paced thriller whereas this film is a slow-burn human drama with a little spy work sprinkled here and there. 

In Lahore Confidential, Richa Chadha plays Ananya, an Urdu poetry lover R&AW agent who is sent to Pakistan on a covert intelligence-gathering mission. The agent then meets a charming event organizer Rauf (Arunoday Singh). who shares her love for Urdu poetry. Inadvertently, they fall in love and thus begin a dangerous game of deceit. Ananya's senior colleague Yukti, played by Karishma Tanna, advises her not to let her heart rule her head, but the secret agent is already too far gone.

Arunoday Singh and Richa Chadha 

On paper, Lahore Confidential seems similar to Meghna Gulzar's excellent spy thriller Raazi (2018). In the latter film, an undercover R&AW agent is married into an affluent Pakistani family to extract valuable information. Both films' overriding theme is the human cost of war, compelling viewers to ask uncomfortable questions like whether is it right to always put one's country above everything, including humanity.

But, unlike Raazi, Lahore Confidential fails to portray this complex theme mainly because of its extremely short length. At 68 minutes, the film is too short to explore complex narratives and themes. Vibha Singh's screenplay keeps switching between Ananya and Rauf's romantic subplot and the R&AW's constant efforts to nab the mastermind, but because of the short length, both plots are underdeveloped. The spy work is handled quite amateurishly, which is a big disappointment considering the standard set by the film's predecessor. Singh's screenplay sheds light on how nations engage in one-upmanship at the cost of their devoted soldiers' lives. Even undercover agents have become used to games that are played at the expense of their lives. The film doesn't have any chest-thumping nationalism or any dialoguebaazi about patriotism. Instead, it focuses on the actions of undercover agents. If only the length had been increased, allowing the writers to explore the subject in a more detailed manner.

Zaidi's writing highlights the rising tension between two rival nations and contemporary international politics. Also, the film is quite predictable especially the climactic twist. In fact, what happens after that twist had a lot more potential and could very well be used to make a separate movie altogether. Kunal Kohli, who is making his digital debut with this film, has done a fairly decent job, which is not a big surprise considering he has already explored the same topic on a much big scale in the Aamir Khan and Kajol film Fanaa (2006).

It's sad to see talented artists like Chadha choosing such sub-par scripts that not only lack novelty but also don't offer anything challenging to actors of her calibre. Throughout the film, the actress wanders around wearing the same expression on her face. Singh and Chadha's chemistry also lacks any spark. Singh does a decent job as a man whose motive is shrouded in mystery.

Overall, Lahore Confidential is a decent espionage drama that squanders its potential because of its short length.

Lahore Confidential is streaming Zee5 from 4 February 2021.

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